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Mode: Single-player video game
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS
Genres: Tactical role-playing game, Real-time tactics
Satellite is a unique game that is filled to the brim with goodies. After an early access period, which i joined at build 0.4, the developers were active among the Steam forums, and were great in explaining why a feature wasn’t able to be implemented. For the most part. It is an RTS game with a fixed isometric camera, which is one of my biggest issues with this game, but let’s get started first.
The beginning of the game can be a bit tough – no money means no black-market weapons, but the difficulty curve is about right, with the first few compounds slowly rising in difficulty, with the first mission being very simple to execute, while teaching the player how he can approach the compounds in different ways. Raiding these compounds can reward a random prototype: new gear, augmentations, weapons, shields and more. This prototype can then be researched, as throughout the game you will need to find scientists to bribe so they will work for you. The more of them you have, the quicker a prototype can be mass produced. All of this research comes at a price, of course. Or, if you are feeling impatient, you can equip the prototype immediately, but know that if that agent dies with the prototype, you lose the ability to research it. And agents dying is almost guaranteed; this game can get very hard and the punishment for dying comes in the form of lost XP and lost money. This adds let another layer of strategy to the game.
Once you have some newer weapons, shields and augmentations the game really opens up. Do you want to stealth a mission? Equip your men with stealth generators and plan your route. Those generators depend on the energy of your agent, so make sure you don’t run out of energy while in sight of the enemy! To make your move easier, why not hijack a guard with your hacker and have him shoot at nothing. A nice distraction to distract the guards! The way cover can be used is especially useful too when playing the game in this way.
Or, say you want to kill everything you can. This is probably the easier playstyle, though once you have the weapons/shields to match, you will meet some very formidable opponents, forcing you to tactically flank and suppress. Or run away if possible, though the developers tweaked the game appropriately, making simply running away much harder than it was earlier in development.
While it is certainly is an option, stealth is unfortunately the loser here. Agents will receive significantly less XP than a player going in with guns blazing, killing everyone. The developers addressed this during early access, but they haven’t erased the problem. In fact, I often find myself raiding compounds, then when finished I’ll shoot out a camera, just so a freshly spawned guard will come out for me to mow down, which of course means more XP. So you can play the game using stealth, but your agents won’t be leveling up as much and you therefore won’t have as many tactical options, as leveling up offers a ton of unique options for each agent: Soldier, Support, Hacker and Infiltrator. This still needs to be addressed in my opinion, though apparently the developers are hard at work creating a co-op mode at the moment, which will add a ton to the replay value. Still, the XP balance needs to be addressed.
Another aspect the developers still haven’t fixed is the run while shooting option. It seems obvious to me – allow the agents to shoot while running, and decrease the accuracy when this is done. But, a different key-binding needs to be used for your agents to shoot while running, and while it work on a very basic level, agents can’t move from cover to cover when using the attack-move feature, which still irritates me every time I play the game. There is no way to queue orders either, so as the operator, you constantly need to micromanage the soldiers, telling them to move, then telling them to shoot once they are in the cover you want, because they often won’t shoot at an enemy unless you tell them to.
From an isometric angle, the camera can be adjusted slightly to see around buildings. It can’t rotate 360 degrees though, which is another element that I was disappointed by, but I understand the obstacles stopping it. The game is designed well to suit the isometric viewpoint – objects or enemies are rarely hidden behind buildings, if ever.
The game world is huge, and will take any player a decent chunk of time to master, let alone completely finish. Take into account co-op mode once available and this is a game well worth its asking price. It has some major flaws in my opinion, but this doesn’t stop it from being an incredibly fun game that has eaten over 150 hours of my life. Like I said at the start, this game is deep.
Satellite Reign is available on Steam for Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS.